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DDSB bringing The Great Bear back to their library shelves

DAN CEARNS, The Standard

DURHAM: The Durham District School Board (DDSB) has decided to return the book ‘The Great Bear’ to their library shelves following pushback from the community regarding their decision to remove it.

Following the original decision to remove it, the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation expressed their disappointment with the decision.

“Our council was disappointed to learn about the DDSB deciding to remove literature by an Indigenous author from its libraries. We share in some of the concerns raised on social media; however, we appreciate the need for all families to be able to raise concerns about school curriculum and materials. We trust the Board will reconsider its decision, recognizing the value of presenting the anonymous concerns [which] were brought forward about the book. We, too, look forward to learning of these concerns, once we commence engagement with DDSB officials,” a statement from Chief Kelly LaRocca, posted on Saturday, April 23rd, read.

The Board announced the decision, to bring this book “and two other Forest of Reading books from [their] library collection” back, in a press release, issued on Wednesday, April 27th.

“An accelerated review process allowed us to engage in conversations with some members of the local Indigenous community. Those discussions have placed the focus on the importance of making books by Indigenous authors available to students, particularly Indigenous students, based on providing choice. In response to this feedback, we will be returning the books to library circulation,” the Board’s press release explained.

In the release, the Board stated they initially removed the book from circulation “following concerns from Indigenous families that were brought forward, related to Indigenous stereotypes and terminology [which] could perpetuate discrimination.”

The Board then decided to do a review to see if the book should remain on the shelves of their schools.

“We recognize, the Indigenous families who came forward did so with the intent to ensure we meet their children’s needs. We also understand, for many families, the importance of accessing books [which] reflect Indigenous lived realities is critically important. In the coming weeks, we will engage in a more fulsome consultation with treaty partners, the DDSB Indigenous Advisory Circle, Indigenous staff and Indigenous families on how to best manage different responses to literature and ensure we serve the needs of Indigenous families,” the board release explained.

The Great Bear is written by David Robertson.

“We deeply respect the work of David A. Robertson, along with those who decide to become authors to inspire children and youth. We have offered to meet with the authors to engage in further discussion,” DDSB officials wrote.

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